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Dementia Care Intervention Eases Burden for Families

nt being cared for by family members, making caregiver health a matter of significant interest and importance.

The study enrolled 642 people who were caring for a relative with Alzheimer’s disease or a related disorder at sites in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, Ala.; Memphis, Tenn.; Miami; Palo Alto, Calif.; and Philadelphia. Hispanics, whites and African-Americans were evenly represented. The more than 200 participants in each ethnic group were randomized to receive either the intervention or an approach used for controlled comparison.

The study intervention used strategies such as role playing, problem solving, skills training, stress management and telephone support groups to address five areas in which caregivers commonly experience problems and that are central to caregiver quality of life: depression; caregiver burden and stress; attention to personal health needs; social support; and problem behaviors exhibited by the care recipient, such as aggressive outbursts or feelings of hopelessness.

Based on the intensity with which each caregiver experienced problems in these areas, the intervention was tailored to meet the individual needs, providing the skills necessary to better cope with the inherent stress of round-the-clock care and helping manage troublesome behaviors in both the care recipient and themselves.

A certified interventionist provided 12 one-on-one sessions over six months. Nine sessions took place in the caregiver’s home, and three occurred by phone. Caregivers also participated in five structured telephone support group sessions.

Control group participants were given educational materials and received two brief “check-in” calls at three and five months. Both groups were evaluated on the five measures (depression, caregiver burden, self-care, social support and problem behaviors) and for clinical depression at the beginning of the study and at six months.

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